July 12, 1894
AMS shown last week, there had come as early as the latter part of the third century of the Christian era, a falling away from the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, so that the way was fully prepared for the setting up of the papacy; but the perfect development of that power was not yet complete.
IN order to its perfect development the papacy must have the aid of the State. Before the bishop of Rome could be exalted to the place he was to occupy and be recognized by all the world as the head of the Church, other bishops must be forced into submission to him by the strong arm of civil power, and the forces were at work that were to accomplish this.
ONE very important factor in the setting up of the papacy was the Emperor Constantine. Coming to the throne, Constantine found Christianity a growing religious power in the empire, and after a time he conceived the idea of turning this new religion which seemed to be displacing paganism, to his own account; likewise the bishops, as we have seen, were grasping for civil power. As Draper says: “It was the aim of Constantine to make theology a branch of politics; it was the aim of the bishops to make politics a branch of theology.” Both were in a measure successful.
OF the state of the Church at that time, Eusebius bears this testimony:—
When by reason of excessive liberty we sunk into negligence and sloth, one envying and reviling another in different ways, and we were almost, as it were, on the point of taking up arms against each other, and were assailing each other with words as with darts and spears, prelates inveighing against prelates, and people rising up against people, and hypocrisy and dissimulation had arisen to the greatest height of malignity, then the divine judgment, which usually proceeds with a lenient hand, whilst the multitudes were yet crowding into the church, with gentle and mild visitations began to afflict its episcopacy, the persecution having begun with those brethren that were in the army. But as if destitute of all sensibility, we were not prompt in measures to appease and propitiate the Deity; some, indeed, like atheists, regarding our situations as unheeded and unobserved by a providence, we added one wickedness and misery to another. But some that appeared to be our pastors, deserting the law of piety, were inflamed against each other with mutual strifes, only accumulating quarrels and threats, rivalship, hostility, and hatred to each other, only anxious to assert the government as a kind of sovereignty for themselves.
The persecution had caused all these divisions and disputes to be laid aside. Every other interest was forgotten in the one all-absorbing question of the rights of conscience against pagan despotism. Thus there was created at least an outward unity among all the sects of whatever name professing the Christian religion in any form. Thus was molded a compact power which permeated every part of the empire, and which was at the same time estranged from every material interest of the empire as it then stood. Here was power, which if it could be secured and used, would assure success to him who would gain it, as certainly as he could make the alliance. This condition of affairs was clearly discerned at the time. Constantine “understood the signs of the times and acted accordingly.”
“TO Constantine, who had fled from the treacherous custody of Galerius, it naturally occurred that if he should ally himself to the Christian party, conspicuous advantages must forthwith accrue to him. It would give him in every corner of the empire men and women ready to encounter fire and sword. It would give him partisans not only animated by the traditions of their fathers, but—for human nature will even in the religious assert itself—demanding retribution for the horrible barbarities and injustice that had been inflicted on themselves; it would give him, and this was the most important of all, unwavering adherents in every legion in the army. He took his course. The events of war crowned him with success. He could not be otherwise than outwardly true to those who had given him power, and who continued to maintain him on the throne.
CONSTANTINE was not the only one who saw this opportunity, but he being an accomplished politician, succeeded, while others failed. In addition to the advantages which offered themselves in this asserted unity of the churches, there was a movement among the bishops which made it an additional incentive to Constantine to form the alliance which he did with the church. Although it is true that all the differences and disputes and strifes among the bishops and sects had been forgotten in the supreme conflict between paganism and freedom of thought, there is one thing mentioned by Eusebius that still remained. That was the ambition of the bishops “to assert the government as a kind of sovereignty for themselves.” Nor was it alone government in the church which they were anxious to assert; but government in the State as well, to be used in the interests of the Church. For, as Neander testifies, “There had in fact arisen in the Church … a false theocratical theory, originating, not in the essence of the gospel, but in the confusion of the religious constitutions of the Old and New Testaments.
This theocratical theory of the bishops is the key to the whole history of Constantine and the church of his time, and through all the dreary period that followed. It led the bishops into the wildest extravagance in their worship of the imperial influence, and coincided precisely with Constantine’s idea of an absolute monarchy.
THE idea of the theocracy that the bishops hoped to establish appears more clearly and fully in Eusebius’s “Life of Constantine” than in any other one production of the time. There the whole scheme appears just as they had created it, and as it was applied in the history of the time. The Church was a second Israel in Egyptian bondage. Maxentius was a second Pharaoh, Constantine was a second Moses. As the original Moses had grown up in the palace of the Pharaohs, so likewise this new Moses had grown up in the very society of the new Pharaohs. Thus runs the story as told by Eusebius:—
Ancient history relates that a cruel race of tyrants  oppressed the Hebrew nation; and the God who graciously regarded them in their affliction, provided that the prophet Moses, who was then an infant, should be brought up in the very palaces and bosoms of the oppressors, and instructed in all the wisdom they possessed. And when he had arrived at the age of manhood, and the time was come for divine justice to avenge the wrongs of the afflicted people, then the prophet of God, in obedience to the will of a more powerful Lord, forsook the royal household and estranging himself in word and deed from those by whom he had been brought up, openly preferred the society of his true brethren and kinsfolk. And in due time God exalted him to be the leader of the whole nation, and after delivering the Hebrews from the bondage of their enemies, inflicted divine vengeance through his means upon the tyrant race. This ancient story, though regarded by too many as fabulous, has reached the ears of all. But now the same God has given to us to be eye-witnesses of miracles more wonderful than fables, and from their recent appearance, more authentic than any report. For the tyrants of our day have ventured to war against the supreme God, and have sorely afflicted His church. And in the midst of these, Constantine, who was shortly to become their destroyer, but at that time of tender age, and blooming with the down of early youth, dwelt, as God’s servant Moses had done, in the very home of the tyrants. Young, however, as he was, he shared not in the pursuits of the impious; for from that early period his noble nature (under the leading of the Divine Spirit), inclined him to a life of piety and acceptable service to God.
Galerius sought to prevent Constantine’s joining his father in Britain, and how Constantine succeeded in eluding his vigilance. By the theocratical bishops this was made to be the flight of the new Moses from the wrath of the new Pharaohs. Thus the story continues:—
The emperors then in power, who observed his manly and vigorous figure and superior mind with feelings of jealousy and fear, … carefully watched for an opportunity of inflicting some brand of disgrace on his character. But he, being aware of their designs (the details of which, through the providence of God, were more than once laid open to his view), sought safety in flight, and in this respect his conduct still affords a parallel to that of the great prophet Moses.
As the original Moses, without the interposition of any human agency, had been called to the work to which the Lord had appointed him, so the theocratical bishops had the new Moses likewise appointed directly by the authority of God:—
Thus, then, the God of all, the supreme Governor of the world, by his own will, appointed Constantine, the descendant of so renowned a parent, to be prince and sovereign; so that, while others have been raised to this distinction by the election of their fellow men, he is the only one to whose elevation no mortal may boast of having contributed.
Eusebius knew as well as any other man in the empire that the legions in Britain had proclaimed Constantine emperor, precisely as the armies had been doing in like instances for more than a hundred years. He knew full well that Constantine held his title to the imperial power by the same tenure precisely as had all the emperors before him from the accession of Claudius. In short, when the bishop Eusebius wrote this statement, he knew that he was writing a downright falsehood.
WHEN Constantine marched against Maxentius, it was the new Moses on his way to deliver Israel. When the army of Maxentius was defeated and multitudes were drowned in the river, it was the Red Sea swallowing up the hosts of Pharaoh. When Maxentius was crowded off the bridge and by the weight of his armor sank instantly to the bottom of the river, it was the new Pharaoh and “the horse and his rider” being thrown into the sea and sinking to the bottom like a stone. Then was Israel delivered, and a song of deliverance was sung by the new Israel as by the original Israel at their deliverance. In describing this, Eusebius uses these words:—
“Let us sing unto the Lord, for He has been glorified exceedingly; the horse and his rider has He thrown into the sea. He is become my helper and my shield unto salvation.” And again, “Who is like to thee, O Lord, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, marvelous in praises, doing wonders?”
Such adulation was not without response on the part of Constantine. He united himself closely with the bishops, of whom Eusebius was but one, and in his turn flattered them. Eusebius says:—
The emperor was also accustomed personally to invite the society of God’s ministers, whom he distinguished with the highest possible respect and honor, treating them in every sense as persons consecrated to the service of God. Accordingly they were admitted to his table, though mean in their attire and outward appearance; yet not so in his estimation, since he judged not of their exterior as seen by the vulgar eye, but thought he discerned in them somewhat of the character of God himself.
This worked charmingly. Throughout the empire the courtly bishops worked in Constantine’s interest; and as only Licinius now remained between Constantine and his longed-for position as sole emperor and absolute ruler, the bishops and their political church followers prayed against Licinius and for Constantine. As these “worldly-minded bishops, instead of caring for the salvation of their flocks, were often but too much inclined to travel about and entangle themselves in worldly concerns,” Licinius attempted to check it. To stop their meddling with the political affairs of his dominions, he forbade the bishops to assemble together or to pass from their own dioceses to others. This only tended to make the bishops more active, as the acts of Licinius could be counted as persecution. Licinius next went so far as to remove from all public office whoever would not sacrifice to the gods; and the line was quickly drawn once more in his dominion in favor of paganism. This caused Constantine’s party to put on a bolder face, and they not only prayed for Constantine against Licinius, but they began to invent visions in which they pretended to see the “legions of Constantine marching victoriously through the streets at midday.”
These enactments on the part of Licinius furnished the new Moses with an opportunity to conquer the heathen in the wilderness, and to go on to the possession of the promised land and the full establishment of the new theocracy. War was declared, and Constantine, with the labarum at the head of his army, took up his march toward the dominions of Licinius.
ANOTHER step was now taken in furtherance of the theocratical idea, and in imitation of the original Moses. It will be remembered that, after the passage of the Red Sea, Moses erected a tabernacle, and pitched it afar off from the camp, where he went to consult the Lord and to receive what the Lord had to give in commandment to Israel. Constantine, to sustain his part in this scheme of a new theocracy, and as far as possible to conform to the theocratical plans of the bishops, likewise erected a tabernacle, and pitched it a considerable distance from his camp. To this tabernacle he would repair and pretend to have visions and communications from the Lord, and to receive directions in regard to his expected battle with Licinius.
He soon carried this matter somewhat further, and provided a tabernacle in each legion, with attendant priests and deacons; and also another which was constructed in the form of a church, “so that in case he or his army might be led into the desert, they might have a sacred edifice in which to praise and worship God, and participate in the mysteries. Priests and deacons followed the tent for the purpose of officiating therein, according to the law and regulations of the Church.
Such was the original of State chaplaincies. And it is but proper to remark that the system, wherever copied, has always been worthy of the original imposture.
The outcome of the war between Constantine and Lucinius was the defeat and subsequent murder of the latter. And when, in violation of his solemn oath to his sister Constantia, Constantine caused Licinius to be executed, the courtier-bishop, Eusebius, justified the wicked transaction as being the lawful execution of the will of God upon the enemy of God.
WHEN Constantine went to take his seat as presiding officer in the Council of Nice, his theocratical flatterers pretended to be dazzled by his splendor, as though an angel of God had descended straight from heaven, and Eusebius, who sat at Constantine’s right hand that day, thus testifies:—
Constantine, to sustain his part in the farce, declared openly in the council that “the crimes of priests ought not to be made known to the multitude, lest they should become an occasion of offense or of sin;” and that if he should detect “a bishop in the very act of committing adultery,” he would throw “his imperial robe over the unlawful deed, lest any should witness the scene,” and be injured by the bad example. And when the council was closed, and the creed for which they had come together was established, he sent a letter to the “Catholic Church of the Alexandrians,” in which he announced that the conclusions reached by the council were inspired by the Holy Spirit, and could be none other than the divine will concerning the doctrine of God.
AFTER the council was over, he gave a banquet in honor of the twentieth year of his reign, to which he invited the bishops and clergy who had attended the council. The bishops responded by pretending that it seemed to be the very likeness of the kingdom of Christ itself. At the banquet “the emperor himself presided, and as the feast went on, called to himself one bishop after another, and loaded each with gifts in proportion to his deserts.” This so delighted the bishops that one of them—it was James of Nisibis, a member of that  monkish tribe that habitually lived on grass, browsing like oxen, was wrought up to such a height that he declared he saw angels standing round the emperor. Constantine, not to be outdone saw angels standing around James; and pronounced him one of the three pillars of the world. He said, “There are three pillars of the world; Antony in Egypt, Nicolas of Myra, James in Assyria.”
Other instances of this mutual cajolery might be given, but space forbids. It was thus that the Church played the harlot with the world in the early part of the fourth century. And thus it was by proving recreant to the Lord and by courting the favor of corrupt princes, that the bishop of Rome was at last exalted to that place where he is described as sitting “in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.”